On 20 June 2001, my Bishop laid his hands on my head in the Church of St Anne’s in Singapore, oiled my palms with Holy Chrism, and ordained me a priest. I celebrated my ninth anniversary of my sacerdotal priesthood yesterday, and it gave me cause to reminisce and ponder this path that my life has taken as a response to God’s call of love and service to him and his people.
I took as my ordination holy card scripture passage Micah 6:8, which reads “this is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God”. I recall that it was at a retreat during my seminary days where this scripture passage stood out and was somehow seared into my mind. I took it somewhat courageously (or prophetically) as a personal motto and slogan for the rest of my priesthood. Looking back these nine years, I would love to say that I have lived this as boldly and truthfully as I would have wanted to, but truth be told, it has been wanting, especially at times when I seemed to be swimming against the current of what is known as the sea of weak, human, self-preserving tendencies.
But to be sure, Micah 6:8 is a passage that is equally fitting for both laity as well as the ordained to seriously reflect upon and perhaps to take as some type of spiritual gauge. Each of us, married, single or ordained who bear the dignity of being baptized into the life of Christ is essentially called to do that – to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.
Acting justly is a very challenging task for anyone. I need to bear in mind constantly that my every action becomes an extension of God’s saving action in the world. The more I refuse to cooperate and collaborate with God’s grace to do this, the more I prevent God’s Kingdom from coming. Oh, how is it that there have been numerous times when a just act is an act that is just not received well? This must be the challenge of the Cross.
Loving tenderly is very easy when there is reciprocal love. It would be so easy if it was mutual all the time, but we only need to glace at the Cross of Christ to see that real love is always a decision, and not a reaction. Loving tenderly becomes then the call of every Christian to love even when hatred, harsh judgment and ingratitude are about the only things that one receives. That image of Christ on the Cross is a reminder of just how tender love can be – where every open wound becomes tender because of a love that is exposed and uncovered, as all wounds are wont to be tender.
And finally, to walk humbly with your God is a call to each one who is called God’s child. Actually, it is a promise of great hope and consolation because it is not a call to walk ahead of (where we lead the way), nor straggling behind (where we reluctantly need to be dragged and inveigled), but walking with. It takes a whole lot of humility to accede to the fact that God wants us to walk with him. It requires of us a heart that is mellow, malleable and also one that is constantly grateful for God’s divine ‘walking-with’ in our lives.
My heartfelt thanks go to my family, my brother priests, my friends and benefactors all these nine years for journeying with me in my priesthood. Through this blog now, I hope to touch the lives of many more, and I’d like to say a special thank you for those who take time to drop in for a read each Monday. Your support has encouraged me to keep up with this regularity. May God bless each of your paths towards holiness.